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O’Sullivan: Optimism surrounds Patriots as practice begins

  • Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks speaks to the media after an organized team activities practice on Thursday in Foxborough, Mass. AP

  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, watches a drill during an NFL football organized team activities practice Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (left) watches quarterback Tom Brady during organized team activities on Thursday in Foxborough, Mass. AP

  • New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler stretches during an NFL football organized team activities practice Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady (12) and Jimmy Garoppolo (10) run through a drill during an NFL football organized team activities practice Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman runs through a drill during an NFL football organized team activities practice Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski runs through a drill during an NFL football organized team activities practice Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett follows through on a pass during an NFL football organized team activities practice Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes) Bill Sikes—AP

  • Gilmore



Monitor staff
Friday, May 26, 2017

There’s always an air of indulgent satisfaction in the offseason, when new players and next year can be colored with glass-overflowing optimism. There’s some extra indulgence this offseason in Foxborough, where the Patriots and their fans are both reveling in last year’s Super Bowl and dreaming about how next year’s team will look with shiny new acquisitions like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore.

The dream has begun to take some shape this week with the team gathered for Organized Team Activities, and even Thursday’s rain was viewed with that offseason optimism. 

“There’s nothing like a nice May day in Foxborough,” receiver Julian Edelman said. “It gives you an opportunity to have kind of a rainy day atmosphere, which in my years here we’ve averaged probably two rain games per year. So to be able to go in and work on keeping your feet under your toes and making cuts in the slippery surface it’s very nice, along with catching in the rain – it’s a lot tougher. It’s good to get an opportunity to do it.”

Asked about Cooks, Edelman was once again enthusiastic. Not just about the new addition from New Orleans, but about all of New England’s receivers.

“(Cooks) works hard and he’s extremely fast,” said Edelman, who will be entering his ninth year with the Patriots. “It’s not just Brandin, but it’s our whole room. We’ve got Hogs (Chris Hogan), Dola (Danny Amendola), Hawk (Andrew Hawkins) now, we’ve got Dev (Devin Lucien), Slate (Matthew Slater), Cody (Hollister), AC (Austin Carr), so you know we’ve got a competitive group in there. (It’s a) very smart room and as long as we continue to improve daily, usually that’s what makes the unit better.”

Cooks also talked about the competitive nature he’s found ingrained in Foxborough.

“The competition level here is amazing,” Cooks said. “So when you’re scoring touchdowns (he found the end zone in OTAs) and you’re going back and forth, of course it’s going to be exciting, that’s the competitive nature.”

The Patriots just announced the signing of Hawkins on Thursday. The 5-foot-7, 31-year old spent his first three NFL seasons in Cincinnati and his last three in Cleveland, and he has 209 career receptions for 2,419 yards.

Even though all the new receivers like Cooks, Hawkins and rookies Hollister and Carr will be fighting with players like Edelman for playing time and passes, Edelman is welcoming when it comes to the new guys.

“If they’re young I try to lead by example – work hard, be attentive, put the team first. That’s kind of what you do and what I saw when I was young with the veterans here,” Edelman said. “Of course, there are vocal guys, but I’ll try to welcome a guy, create a relationship because you know that’s what this time is about – going out and learning your new teammates, creating a cohesive unit and being excited to play football.”

Gilmore, the top-end cornerback who signed a five-year, $65-million contract in March, certainly seems excited to be learning about his new teammates. There’s a possibility for tension between Malcolm Butler, who wanted a new contract but didn’t get one, and Gilmore, but so far neither player is adding any fuel to that speculative fire.

“(Butler) is a good player. He’s feisty. It’s just fun being out here with all them guys, everybody in the secondary,” Gillmore said.

After months of speculation that he would be traded away, Butler has committed to the Patriots for this season. Sure, he may still be a little bitter about the way things played out, but it’s difficult to imagine anything less than 100 percent effort from the blue-collar Butler, who clawed his way onto the roster as an undrafted free agent from Division II West Alabama and turned himself into a Super Bowl hero and a second-team All-Pro.

“The past is the past,” Butler said. “I’m just here to do a job and do anything to help the team win. I’m just moving forward, and whatever happens, happens.”

The good feelings even extended to legendary grump Bill Belichick. The day after his team’s miracle comeback in the Super Bowl, Belichick was lamenting that the Patriots were weeks behind the rest of the league in terms of preparation. But offseason Belichick has relaxed on that stance.

“I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now,” he said “I think it’s the being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing. I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule.”

Like the rest of us, Belichick is extra interested in the new guys. Watching them closely is part of his process when it comes to which position groups he works with during practice.

“Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with,” Belichick said. “Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season.

Belichick seemed (sort of) happy when talking about football with the media on Thursday, but he was practically ecstatic when it came to discussing the NCAA lacrosse championships being held at Gillette Stadium this weekend.

“It’s great. A lot of my friends are here with both the men’s and women’s teams. It should be a great event to have both the men and women competing over the same weekend in the same venue,” Belichick said. “It will be a great weekend for lacrosse.”

Yup, that sounds like the offseason, where even a curmudgeon like Belichick uses the word “great” in three out of four sentences.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)